Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Plastic Ocean

 Mark Graham

Have you ever wonder where our plastics waste end up? The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a huge body of water cover in marine debris (trash). Also known as the Pacific trash vortex, the garbage patch is actually two distinct collections of debris bounded by massive NORTH PACIFIC SUBTROPICAL GYRE. It is a space of man-made mass proportion and is estimated to be the size of Texas. The Great Garbage Patch is not visible as headlines would have us to believe. In actuality, microscopic debris is spread throughout a large area of the ocean, making it impossible to view it as an object of study. What is known for certain is that the marine debris in the North Pacific Gyre is mostly plastic coming from land. When plastic bottles, cups and bags are dropped in the street, rain washes them into storm sewers, rivers and eventually the ocean. Once plastic is in the ocean, it can float for hundreds of miles before it's caught in a gyre, where it swirls around until sunlight and salt water break it down into small plastic chips. With millions of plastic in the ocean, animals can mistake the pieces of plastic for food. Animals will eat the plastics, resulting in death of poisoning or digestive blockage. Plastic also absorbs pollutants like banned PCBs.Not only can larger plastic objects entrap, entangle and entwine pelagic wildlife, they also act as floating islands and play a role in the colonization potentially poisonous new habitats. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch can easily be mistaken for a landfill site. Whether it be an algae-sifting whale or a fish-eating seal, small pieces of plastic are mistaken for food at all levels of the chain. Algalita researchers have seen Styrofoam cups with bites taken out of them because they have the same texture as food.

Another issue is that so much marine debris is comprised of plastic, much of which takes hundreds of years to breakdown and ends up in the digestive systems of everything from whales to plankton, including much of the seafood we eat. The amount of debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch accumulates because much of it is not biodegradable. Many plastics, for instance, do not wear down; they simply break into tinier and tinier pieces. In the meantime, we can all play a role in reducing the amount of plastic and other debris that end up in our oceans, then on our dinner plate. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading environmental non-profit. According to the group, individuals need to take the responsibility to recycle and never litter, while manufacturers should reduce packaging and design more of it to be fully recyclable. We all must come together to save our oceans.

Work Cited:
Corkum, Kim. “Plastic Ocean”. Blog, Education, Plastic. Image. web. 15 October. 2015

Great Pacific Garbage Patch - Ocean Pollution Awareness. 2012. Youtube. 15 October. 2015. Video. Web.

Jordan, Chris. “Midway Island”. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Image. web. 15 October. 2015 “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” Education. 2015. Web.

For other references on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch Visit: . This source is an article by Daisy Dumas, discussing the rapid increase of pollution in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The article also highlights the effect of polluted water on sea creatures. This source is an article about the world’s sea surfaces and the countries producing the most garbage. The article also discuss how trash moves from one patch to another. This source is an article about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, being compare to a vast island and the ecological disasters it has begun to create.

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